Out of the Zone

A Bright Light for a Big City


The C&MA’s founder, Dr. A. B. Simpson, got into real trouble in his Presbyterian congregation because he responded to the call of Jesus in reaching the lost. Church members were uncomfortable that their pastor liked going down to the docks in lower Manhattan to speak to immigrants and workers from all over the world.

This summer, my wife, Wendy, and I got a taste of that experience as we joined our college ministry team for a missions trip to Manhattan. We left our comfort zone in Marshall, Minnesota, for a five-day trip in which we preached in the open air. It was the experience of a lifetime.

We spent time in some of the busiest areas of uptown and downtown New York, passing out gospel tracts, speaking with people one-on-one and preaching on the subways. At each location, we set up a booth where people could ask for prayer and were invited to follow Christ. Several felt the need to repent on the spot and trust the Savior. What a privilege to guide them as they cried out to God in midtown Manhattan!

The first afternoon, we got our feet wet in front of Penn Station. After open-air preaching, I spoke for 30 minutes to a group of self-proclaimed atheists from Quebec, challenging their conscience and intellect. They left with some Bibles (which they promised to read) and tracts to help guide their reading. One of the great things about witnessing in New York and other major cities is that people from all over the world are there. What a great God we serve, setting up this meeting for four young men from Canada to hear the gospel.

On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, we set up our pulpit in the middle of Times Square—literally! We preached on an “island” in the intersection of 42nd Street and Broadway, where it is estimated that 100,000 people pass every day. Many stopped to listen to our seven-minute sermons; some, like Ronald, stayed for several. He was clearly under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. One of our team members shared the gospel with him, and Ronald repented in humility before God right there on that altar in the world’s busiest corner.

By far the most challenging location was Union Square Park, where almost every culture, language and religion is represented in one square block. As we began to preach, hecklers lined up to challenge us, but we engaged them by presenting the law of God and then sharing the truth that Jesus died to pay our fines with His blood. For hours on Saturday and Sunday, preacher after preacher proclaimed the truth of sin, judgment, mercy and grace to a group that was less than cordial.

On Sunday, we faced a unique challenge. Thousands of “Free Tibet” protestors filled Union Square Park, and a near-riot broke out when police tried to break up the demonstration. We found several Christians in the group who translated for us as we proclaimed the gospel to the dispersing crowd. “Jesus Christ died to free Tibet,” we told them. We explained to those who would listen that Jesus died to free us, not from the chains of government, but from the chains of sin and death. Many glad people who heard this truth visited the prayer booth.

The highlight of the trip for me was when Wendy stepped out of her comfort zone completely and got onto the soapbox. She simply read John 3:16–18 to what initially was a hostile crowd, but they seemed to quiet down while listening to her soft, pleading voice. She invited them to respond to the Savior who came to earth to die for them—not to condemn them but to save them.

I challenge all of you to get out of your comfort zone—whether it is in the pulpit or the cubicle—and preach the gospel wherever you find the lost. This is the heartbeat and the DNA of The Alliance—to seek that which is lost (Luke 19:10) and to preach the good news to all creation (Mark 16:15).

As Charles H. Spurgeon said, “Every Christian is a missionary or an impostor.” Don’t be an impostor—share your faith today!

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